WOMEN living in Oxford’s only all-female accommodation will be left homeless just days before Christmas after being served an eviction notice.

The 69 women living in block Farndon Court were told late last month they would need to leave the social housing block and find somewhere else to live. 

Housing association Catalyst, which took over the block on Woodstock Road from the YWCA, explained that the decision had been made to sell the building to a company that could afford to 'make it modern'. 

Residents have been issued with a legal notice this week giving two months' notice, along with some 'goodwill' cash. 

But some of the women who live in the building, many of whom have been renting for years, have hit out at the move, saying they feel 'mistreated' and 'left to struggle' to find somewhere to live this winter despite the property not yet being sold. 

Ou Wang, a long-term tenant at the women-only block, said: "We will be made homeless before Christmas a time of year when the weather is likely to be at its worst.

"I first came to Farndon Court in 1993, when it was owned by YWCA, a charity with the aim of providing housing for vulnerable women." 

The 97-room block was sold on to housing association Catalyst, under the conditions it would remain let to women only. 

Oxford Mail:

People have since moved in to the accommodation, which costs around £120 a week with bills included, for financial reasons, convenience or because of religion. 

Seraphina Lorell moved into the block three years ago because it was 'the only option'.

However, she says she has grown to enjoy the community, and added that the building has a large community with a social media page set up and regular events included block parties and a Bar Mitzvah.

The 32-year-old said: “I’m annoyed, I live here, this is my house, and I’m losing that secure roof over my head. 

“We will be made homeless just before Christmas. 

“I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do next.

“I moved in at first because it was my only option, but since then all these little bonuses have cropped up.” 

The building was taken on from the YWCA in 2001 with a condition that it would remain as women only accommodation for 10 years. 

However, it will now be sold without any such condition. Catalyst would not reveal who the building is likely to be sold to but said it was a 'reputable organisation'.

To help with the costs of their unexpected situation, the housing association has offered the residents £1,500 each. 

Oxford Mail:

But one resident, who wished to remain anonymous said: “There’s just nothing comparable on the market.” 

In the letter sent to residents in the block, which opened in 1969, Catalyst Housing explained it had made the decision to sell the building. 

It said: “Catalyst can’t invest the money needed. 

“This means that everyone currently living in the property will have to move out and find somewhere else to live.

"We can appreciate this will be unexpected news and difficult for some of you.

“We will be serving the legal notices and you may wish to seek your own independent advice once you have received it."

The letter also offered those worried a list of useful contacts, including Oxford City Council Housing Needs team, Oxford Citizens Advice Bureau, Crisis and Shelter.

The building has not yet been sold.

Catalyst housing dates back to the 1960s, with roots in London – where it was initially set up to provide people on low incomes with somewhere to live and rent more cheaply.

On the website, it says Ken Loach's influential TV play Cathy Come Home was ‘instrumental’ in highlighting the issues of homelessness, unemployment and poverty and helped to show the public the scale of the UK's housing crisis. 

Against this backdrop, Ealing Family Housing Association – now Catalyst – wanted to improve the local housing conditions and provide living situations for locals who couldn’t compete on the open market. 

At the end of August, earlier this year, it announced that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had chosen Catalyst as a partner to deliver his affordable housing programme, alongside eight other housing associations. 

As part of this, it was awarded £22.3m to deliver 455 affordable homes in the capital.

Wayne Davies, director of asset management at Catalyst, said: “We are committed to supporting everyone currently living at Farndon Court who needs help to find a new place to live.

“We are providing dedicated time with our team to discuss everyone’s available options as well as offering financial help with costs, such as a deposit and first month’s rent in a new property. 

“The vast majority of residents have already met with us for advice and support, and we are working closely with local partners to help everyone as much as possible.”